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Imagine what a professional football team would be like without Effective Management Systems focused on a regimen of practice drills? Now take away their playbook and player statistics. What you have in this extreme scenario are highly talented (and perhaps overpaid) individuals participating in organized chaos. They might actually win a game or two, but in the long run, this team is doomed.
I offer this illustration to drive home the point of why any organization needs to examine the existence and effectiveness of its management systems. If there are weaknesses or holes in your documented procedures (playbook), or benchmark measurements (stats), then you will want to take corrective action.
Five Phases to Building Effective Management Systems
It is my experience that when a company attempts to establish Effective Management Systems for the first time, it takes longer than expected, involves more people than planned, and grows in complexity.
To control this trend, I advocate dividing the process into five (5) distinct phases, each with clear objectives:
Phase I – Discovery
Think of this initiation phase as all the things the coaching staff does up to and including the first pre-season team meeting. It is where the overall missions and goals are set, with clear effectiveness criteria established. Certainly the team may set it sights on the championship, but what about the kicking team or linemen? Each part of your organization must have meaningful and measurable performance criteria mapped out in this phase.
Establishing objectives and criteria requires close scrutiny by management of what really contributes to the overall company mission. Departmental goals must be aligned with company goals. To illustrate with our football analogy: running backs may propose a goal of 5,000 total yards rushing in a season. This may or may not be beneficial to the team goal, whereas an aligned goal might be to achieve an average of +5 yards per run. The latter may be more appropriate for a highly pass-oriented offense.
In your discovery phase, once your objectives and effectiveness criteria are agreed upon, you can create your action plan. This step is simply the broad roadmap covering the remaining 4 phases of building your management system.
The Discovery Phase generally takes from 2-4 weeks, and represents approximately 12% of the total process. Onto the next stage;
Phase II – Planning
Have you ever had the opportunity to watch the construction of a large building? The daily progress from foundation to top floor is truly amazing, and if you’re like me, you wonder “how does it all happen?” The answer: it takes a lot of planning.
A complex construction job clearly requires project planning in excruciating detail to orchestrate materials and manpower. Inadequate project planning can result in waste, delays and a shoddy end-product.
Building an effective management system is equally dependent on executing a strong planning phase.
Planning the Management System
The planning stage is arguably the most important step in any large-scale project. If you fail to plan properly, everything else will likely follow this failure.
Just as a construction contractor wouldn’t dare start ordering materials or pounding nails without a plan, your firm must avoid moving too quickly into the actual development phase of writing procedures that are the basis of an effective management system.
Using the construction analogy, the first step is typically a survey of the parcel of land on which to construct your building. You’ll examine such conditions as utilities, roads, property grade and soil. In a management system development project, we call this step a GAP Analysis, or Business Assessment, because it articulates what the “gap” between current reality in your organization and your stated objectives. Recall that the objectives and measurable effectiveness criteria were established in Phase I – Discovery.
The results of the Gap Analysis, or Business Assessment, are used as inputs to produce a project plan.
Planning the Project
The Project Plan details the materials and tools that will help management control the project as well set budgets and schedules. Most of us are familiar with the components necessary to manage the conversion of a bare piece of land into the architect’s vision: drawings, bids, permits, contracts, work orders, and inspections. But what is required to develop a management system?
The Complete Process
Your project planning phase includes producing these components that will greatly ease the Development and Implementation Phases (III and IV, respectively) and make for an overall solid structure:
- Project roles and responsibilities
- Organization chart
- Activities, resources, dates
- Reviews structure
- Status reports
- Document control and format
- Process map
- Compliance requirements
- Training, implementation, testing and audit plans.
Process Map Review
Before concluding the Planning Phase, a review is conducted of each component with emphasis on the process map and effectiveness criteria to ensure alignment with identified organizational goals. This check will help eliminate project drift in the coming phases.
The Planning Phase takes from 2-4 weeks, and leads us to the Development phase.
Phase III – Development
Now, I’m no entertainment mogul, but The Development Phase reminds me of producing a Hollywood movie. When we sit in a theater and watch the latest blockbuster, we see a finished product and assume it was made pretty much as it looks. But we would be wrong. Making a movie, much like the process of building a strong policy and procedure system, is a non-linear process with a tremendous amount of “behind the scenes” support.
Management Systems and the Development Process
Just as every great movie is guided by a talented Director; your effort to build an effective management system requires a skilled Project Manager. The role is especially critical in the Development Phase because it is during this stage that the time, effort and expense of the entire project cast is involved, and much like the actual shooting phase of a film production, it can consume up to 50% of your project cost.
Policy and Procedures Expertise
What skills make a strong Project Manager? Besides the obvious qualities of good organizational, communication and time management skills, I include policy and procedure or process development expertise. Depending on your staff, this may require an outside resource.
Related Development Processes
You might be surprised to learn that movies are seldom shot in “linear sequence”… that is, from start to finish. For a number of reasons, the director will organize scenes into groups that are filmed “out of sequence,” then edited into their correct place. Similarly, your firm will want to conduct the Development Phase by organizing related processes into a grouping and then completing these before going on to the next set.
Policy and Procedure Document Control
Your development work will begin by establishing a policy and procedures document control flow and format (Think of these as setting the stage). Next your assigned writers will craft the actual documents from base materials (Refining the script). Document control is best managed using an online procedure management software product.
Then a process walk through is performed and tested for a) compliance and b) effectiveness (Dress rehearsal). Once this process grouping is completed, you move on to another set.
Supporting Documents for the Process
At the end of a film, I’m always amazed at the long scroll of credits after the actors’ names. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to make it all happen, and your development process is no different. You’ll rely on valuable support documents such as job descriptions, forms, technical manuals, training programs and reference material to develop your new management system.
Process Review for the Completed System
A motion picture can’t be released until all the scenes are shot and edited. Likewise, you will want to complete the process documentation and a review of ALL your processes as a completed system before moving on to the next phase – Implementation.
The Development Phase should take 2-4 months, depending on the number of processes, compliance requirements and skills of the writers/reviewers. And now you’re ready to put your management system into the action.
Phase IV – Implementation
Before we discuss Implementation, a quick recap:
In Phase I (Discovery) we learned how your organization specifies the project mission, objectives and effectiveness criteria. Phase II (Planning) entailed setting requirements for project tools, budgets and schedules to manage your project. Phase III (Development) taught us about identifying and testing processes within the system.
With all of that behind us, next it’s time to learn about “learning”.
Implementing the Management System
Implementing an effective management system is much like the first day of school. When young children walk into that big new classroom for the first time, the effect can be intimidating, even overwhelming. New students are like blank slates: intelligent, capable, but completely untested and unschooled in the challenges that lie ahead. By the time the final bell rings on their academic careers (many lectures, raised hands, and exams later) those same students have grown into talented experts in their chosen fields. The difference between “before” and “after” is training, testing, and time.
Training and Assessment
In the same way, implementation is all about information and assessment. Your class must be educated, indoctrinated, tested, and graded in the ways of your management system in order to graduate to effectiveness. No one ever said it was easy, but with studying and hard work, your organization is sure to score straight A’s.
Skills and Business Assessment
The first assignment for Effectiveness 101 is a pop quiz to see exactly where the focus of your improvement efforts will need to be. A preliminary assessment of your employees’ skills and competencies will help determine the training gaps your people need to close.
On-site Process Training
Once you have identified your training needs, then your lesson plan can begin in earnest. Your training program will introduce your employees to the job descriptions, processes, and procedures that compose the management system. Just as importantly, your employees must be trained on the relationships between themselves and your objectives and effectiveness.
Once the coursework has been taught, it’s time to do some grading. A top-to-bottom audit should be conducted of your entire system against your objectives and compliance requirements. With this audit completed, you will be able to graduate from where you’ve been to where you want to be.
Total Implementation Time
No one goes from kindergarten to college overnight. You are working toward a stable system, and it will take time. Roughly 50% of the project’s total time, in fact; implementation usually takes a three- to six-month “semester” to complete. The exact amount of time you’ll spend will depend on how many employees, locations, and processes you have.
Phase V – Re-Discovery
Now we turn the corner to our final phase: Re-Discovery.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the expedition of Lewis & Clark, and much has been written about their remarkable journey up the Missouri River and on to the Pacific. This band of explorers was aptly named The Corps of Discovery. In reality, The Corps made two trips, the second being their return. It is likely that the unheralded return journey was more revealing and insightful than the outbound leg, offering them a chance to re-discover with clearer vision what they had already seen.
It is in this frame of mind that your organization will embark on the Re-Discovery Phase of building an effective management system.
Company Policy, Assessment and Improvement
The Re-Discovery Phase completes the loop of the entire project, and then overlaps with The Discovery Phase of the next year. Therein lies the “never-ending cycle” of the project. The Re-Discovery Phase allows your organization to migrate from a “fix it and done!” mentality to one of continuous improvement. Because in Re-Discovery/Discovery Phases you will always be reviewing and assessing your organization for ways to improve performance, compliance, and effectiveness.
When we pass down a street for the first time, our minds are focused on reaching the destination. Upon returning, we are able to notice things that were previously missed. Returning allows us to go through the same path of the original Discovery Phase in this different light.
This will involve reviewing audit results, process measures and customer satisfaction to determine possible adjustments to the mission, objectives and action plans as well as effectiveness criteria. You will want to assess the appropriateness of these elements now that you have completed your “outbound journey” through the Planning, Development and Implementation Phases. What will you see differently? How will you prepare for the cycle to begin again next year?
The Re-Discovery Phase culminates a project that started 6-12 months ago. As in all Phases it is wise to identify a Project Leader to manage document controls, lead the audits, and report to management. After all, your project goal is to build effective management systems.
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